After finishing the Netflix Luke Cage series I thought about writing about my experience in comic-con immediately following. However, I realized a status and some pictures could’ve explained all of that in a much shorter time and perhaps through my medium which I don’t use enough.
Anyways, I wanted to write-up thoughts on Luke Cage specifically around Blackness, cinematography, music, and as a comic book story. In terms of Blackness, it’s hard to place the show in a box because while we have seen Black shows such as comedic series like Martin or In Living Colour, we haven’t seen as many drama shows. Sure you could argue for The Wire and New York Undercover, but for because this is Netflix and this is a comic book series the show is elevated completely into mainstream. As such, Cleo Choker intentionally made many of the show pieces showcase Black culture from the music, clothing, references – Invisible Man and Langston Hughes, manner of speaking – sorors and talking about your moms, there is a large amount of content that a casual non-Black viewer will not understand.
At the same time, this is what makes the show so great as well because it simply feels good to exist a Black Harlem with this cast of characters showing off their intelligence and skills. As someone wrote, if you’re Black this show is self-care because the heroes, villains, police, girlfriends, mentors and it seems all the every day people are all Black and have a voice. Perhaps that what makes the experience therapeutic we’re not the bad guys, we’re not the sidekicks, we’re not the damsel in distress, we are everyone this time and it’s an encouraging feeling when you see it.
Another wonderful aspect of Blackness in the show is that there are several scenes of two or more Black women who are not talking about men, not talking race, but simply talking about their work and it’s great to see. A few Black women I know praised this in particular as it reflects how they run their lives overall free of men and free racial setbacks. Furthermore, Misty Knight –new favorite- is never seen as a whore for her actions in the first episode and Mariah sexiness continues even though usually older Black women are not seen as attractive. As such, this show passes so many tests racially and gender specific it is truly shines.
Cinematography and music are two technical components done well in this show as well. While the musical set pieces harken back to New York Undercover, they are integral to the working of the show. The music sounds great but there are some great examples of music and story mixing that stand out: Rafael Saddiq setting the stage for Harlem’s Paradise as all our main characters interact in one spot, Jidenna’s Long Live the Chief as Cottonmouth reigns and Claire chases down a mugger, the Stylistics starting and stopping with Diamondback’s shaky mood, Wu Tang’s Bring the Ruckus set to Luke Cage’s romp, and of course Method Man’s rap in support of Luke Cage. In each of these musical moments fit what is occurring in the story in both a sense of support for the characters and for added depth of the Black experience occurring in the themes.
As for cinematography, Black skin has never looked so beautiful. There are a few well-done trick shots and Luke Cage’s big fight in episode 3 is filmed with all the stops. Probably the best aspect of this is the lighting, you can tell distinct differences in Luke’s skin versus Cottonmouth’s versus Mariah’s versus Misty’s skin tones. It is beautiful and stands out with the low lighting to bring out all their features. There are also several excellent staging set-ups in Harlem’s Paradise, which is arguably where the best filming, action and plot changes happen throughout the show. Overall, it is great to see a large amount of technical skill placed into a Black tv show.
As a comic book show, Luke Cage has a variety of intriguing moments that work and don’t work simultaneously. The comic book references do exist but the show primarily exists as a reboot of the comic book series so nobody has their old outfits or looks. Furthermore, there are a few plot changes taken with the characters as well. As such, if you are a comic book purist you will have some difficulties here outside of the cheesy lines and acting at times, but especially from Mike Colter. In that sense, the show’s biggest complaint, the acting fits for a comic book narrative, but Mahershala Ali, Simone Missick and Alfre Woodard are still wonderful. The show also stays pretty grounded in reality, I would even say more so than Jessica Jones and Daredevil, which for the comic book series reboot works well for the universe Marvel has built.
Overall, the series works to bring Black heroics to the mainstream as it did perform well. Furthermore, you will enjoy the cinematography and cop a soundtrack soon. As for the comic book sequencing, it could be a bit better, but at the end of the day Luke Cage is a must see for not only the Black experience, but for simply enjoying great TV.